Phyllosilicate emission from protoplanetary disks: is the indirect detection of extrasolar water possible?

Melissa A. Morris, Steven J. Desch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Phyllosilicates are hydrous minerals formed by interaction between rock and liquid water, and are commonly found in meteorites that originate in the asteroid belt. Collisions between asteroids contribute to zodiacal dust, which therefore reasonably could include phyllosilicates. Collisions between planetesimals in protoplanetary disks may also produce dust that contains phyllosilicates. These minerals possess characteristic emission features in the mid-infrared and could be detectable in extrasolar protoplanetary disks. We have determined whether phyllosilicates in protoplanetary disks are detectable in the infrared, using instruments such as those on board the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). We calculated opacities for the phyllosilicates most common in meteorites and, using a two-layer radiative transfer model, computed the emission of radiation from a protoplanetary disk. We found that phyllosilicates present at the 3% level lead to observationally significant differences in disk spectra and should therefore be detectable with the use of infrared observations and spectral modeling. Detection of phyllosilicates in a protoplanetary disk would be diagnostic of liquid water in planetesimals in that disk and would demonstrate similarity to our own Solar System. We also discuss use of phyllosilicate emission to test the "water worlds" hypothesis, which proposes that liquid water in planetesimals should correlate with the inventory of short-lived radionuclides in planetary systems, especially (26)Al.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-978
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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